Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 344 (and a reprise of Ops 343 and 342a):
Opus 344 (September 22, 2015). Another hare-raising adventure which started out as an annual “picture” posting with coverage (so to speak) of the pin-up covers of superheroine comics but finished with a report on the heavily guarded editoonists annual convention and an examination of New Yorker cartoonists, beginning with the inert work of BEK, plus reviews Graphic Canon Vol.3, Loisel’s Peter Pan, and an assortment of funnybooks (Welcome Back No.1, We Are Robin, Romita’s Superman, 1872, IDW’s Sherlock Holmes), and news about Charlie Hebdo’s latest, Farghadani’s indecency, Warren Ellis’ forthcoming James Bond, “The O’Reilly Factoid,” and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Bible and its reputed prohibitions, a look at the month’s editoons and an obit for Brad “Marmaduke” Anderson, and more—all fastidiously illustrated and illuminated. Here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
Charlie Hebdo Again
Farghadani Faces Indeceny Charge
Ohman’s Farewell to AAEC
Comic Book People 2 Out Now
(A Review of Comic-Con’s History)
ODDS & ADDENDA
Staples Only through Archie No.3
James Bond 007 in November
Zunar Gets Award
Dr. Seuss Racist
Brodner on Trump
Walt Disney Biog on PBS
Missing Dennis Statue Found. Or not?
Archie on Radio Caricatured
THE O’REILLY FACTOID
(I Love This Guy: He’s Such a Fiction)
EDITOONISTS GUARDED CONVENTION
Some Excellent Cartoons On Charlie Hebdo
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Welcome Back No.1
We Are Robin
IDW’s Sherlock Holmes
Mignola’s Decorative Page in Hellboy
The Month’s Events in Editorial Cartoons
David Fitzsimmons Extolled
NEW YORKER CARTOONS: PART ONE
The Inert Cartoons of BEK
BEK Graphic Novel: Edmund and Rosemary Go to Hell
RANCID RAVES GALLERY
A Plethora of Cover Pictures of Pin-Uppy Heroines
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
CIVILIZATION’S LAST OUTPOST
Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is 96: Some Poetic Excerpts
Short Reviews of—:
The Graphic Canon: Volume 3
Regis Loisel’s Peter Pan
Kremos, Volumes 1 and 2 Previewed
Scholarly Titles at McFarland
ABOUT THE BIBLE AND ITS REPUTED PROHIBITIONS
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
CHARLIE HEBDO is back in hot water—for the usual reasons: the French satirical magazine published a couple scathingly sarcastic cartoons on a sensitive subject which made the magazine look uncaring and unsympathetic about the current migration crisis engulfing Europe.
One cartoon, echoing the image of a 3-year-old drowned Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, locates near the body of the child a billboard advertising two kid’s menu meals for the price of one with the caption “So close to making it.” In a second cartoon, captioned, according to time.com, “Proof that Europe is Christian,” a Jesus-like character is walking on water while another is sinking head first with the former saying “Christians walk on water” and the latter saying “Muslim children sink.”
“Many commentators, both in the press and on social media, expressed outrage at the magazine, with some even threatening legal action. Others have defended Charlie Hebdo, saying the cartoons were clearly intended to indict European governments for failing to address the migrant crisis.”
I go with the latter. The cartoons revolve around insufficiently responsive European governments faced with a humanitarian crisis. In both cartoons, an “outside world” appears uncaring, even oblivious, to the ongoing tragedy.
AT THE WASHINGTON POST’S ComicRiffs, Michael Cavna spoke to several American editoonists about their reactions to the use of the dead boy in a cartoon.
Jen Sorensen, winner of the Herblock Prize who had just returned from Turkey, said: “Strangely enough, I was just on the beach where Aylan drowned. I spent time there when I visited Turkey in June as a juror for the Aydin Doğan International Cartoon Competition, so I find that photo, and other images of refugees in Bodrum, particularly chilling. While I did find other Charlie Hebdo cartoons to contain elements of bigotry, these seem to be mocking the callousness of Europe rather than the boy himself. I believe the intention is to show sympathy for the plight of the refugees.”
While reading the work as sympathetic, Sorensen notes that she would not invoke Aylan the way Charlie did. “I can see how some people might view the legs poking up out of the water [in the Jesus cartoon] as slightly too goofy a comedic trope for a tragic situation. While I have not drawn Aylan myself, if I did, I would want to do it thoughtfully, as part of a poignant cartoon. It’s not an image that lends itself to jauntiness.”
Liza Donnelly, too, has spent recent days overseas. Said Cavna: “The political cartoonist/editor and New Yorker gag cartoonist has been at the fifth International Meeting of Press Cartoonists in Caen, France, where security was heightened considerably compared with previous meetings, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. And while Donnelly believes strongly in press freedoms, she also believes in drawing a personal line when sitting to draw editorial lines.”
“The photo of Aylan Kurdi is extremely powerful,” Donnelly told Cavna. “I believe there is no reason for a cartoonist to ‘use’ it — we can find other ways to express concern and outrage at the Syrian crisis. And to use the imagery of Aylan in that photo to create a joke — to be honest, I find that very disturbing. But, that said,” she continued, “if people want to draw cartoons that make fun of a tragically dead child, they should of course have the freedom to do so.”
Mike Luckovich, the Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, thought about whether to use the refugee boy’s body as a symbol — and reasoned that it is a fitting image to invoke, even if he ultimately chose not to.
“I didn’t use the image. I had a rough sketch that used Aylan Kurdi to show the world’s indifference, but I ended up not drawing it,” Luckovich said. “It wasn’t because of the image of the drowned toddler, though. I just didn’t think it was a great cartoon. I think as an editorial cartoonist, using an image that’s become a worldwide symbol, even if sensitive, is completely appropriate.”
Still, he believes the French weekly is wide open for another angle of criticism.
“I would not have done either of those Charlie Hebdo cartoons,” he said. “First, they’re both lousy ideas. And secondly, by using the powerful image of that dead little kid, they overwhelm whatever point they were trying to make in both cartoons.”
He continued: “I know Charlie Hebdo is satirical, but there is good satire and bad satire. I think both of these cartoons fall into the latter category, especially the one with the billboard of the Ronald McDonald-like character.”
Jack Ohman, the editorial cartoonist at the Sacramento Bee, underscores the necessary context when drawing deceased people, especially children.
“I have not employed that particular image” of Aylan, says Ohman. “I couldn’t rule it out, because there are ways to do this and make a legitimate point. That’s what we do. I have done cartoons that have used a dead person. For example, I drew a cartoon about Robert McNamara a long time ago using the Kent State shooting victim. I think, in context, I could see where some of these cartoons are effective. … Use of children is a sensitive point. It’s important to take each cartoon in context. I think some of the criticism of these cartoons were clearly, deliberately misconstrued.”
Nikahang Kowsar, a Washington-based political cartoonist and refugee from persecution in his native Iran, has not employed Aylan’s image, but he appreciates why some of his colleagues have.
“I have not yet used Aylan in a cartoon — it was really heartbreaking and I couldn’t do it,” said Kowsar, who was once jailed in Iran for his cartoons critical of the nation’s religious leaders. “But I certainly love many cartoons that demonstrated the depth of the Syrian refugee crisis and the human catastrophe by showing Aylan as a victim of the devastating war, and a victim of a choice that others have made.”
Then Kowsar illustrates what he might have rendered.
“I would have drawn president Obama preaching to Aylan’s dead body, telling him why the U.S. chose to intervene in Libya but do nothing in Syria. And Aylan’s spirit would have responded, ‘I know, you needed the Iran deal…that’s why.’ ”
“Those words are powerful,” Cavna finished. “But would their context have been misinterpreted, or roundly criticized, had Kowsar actually drawn Aylan’s small, lifeless body?”
PROLONGING THE AFFRONT TO HUMAN DIGNITY
By Matilda Battersby, independent.co.uk; September 9, 2015
RCH in Italics
In a time fraught with religious zealotry, we cannot be too surprised that Atena Farghadani, 29, currently in an Iranian jail appealing her sentence of 12 years for criticizing the government with a cartoon, now faces further charges of “indecency” for allegedly shaking hands with her male lawyer.
Amnesty International reports that charges of an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” have been brought against Farghadani and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi amid allegations he visited her in jail and shook her hand— which is illegal in Iran.
Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison earlier this year when, after the publication of her cartoon protesting plans by the Iranian government to outlaw voluntary sterilization and to restrict access to contraception, she was found guilty by a Tehran court of “colluding against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting members of the parliament” through her cartoon, which depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats.
After getting no satisfaction with a letter of complaint to the government, Farghadani recorded a video in which she explained what happened to her in Evin prison, with details including being strip-searched over a minor offence, beaten and verbally abused by guards. Too much protest.
She was re-arrested in January 2015 and sentenced in June by judge Abolghassem Salavati who is notorious for leading numerous controversial trials, many of which resulted in executions.
The artist now faces a fresh trial on indecency charges and Amnesty International predicts that her sentence will be extended.
Farghadani is believed to be serving her sentence in Gharchak jail and is reported to have gone on hunger strike.
JACK OHMAN’S FAREWELL TO AAEC
Few retiring AAEC presidents have published farewell remarks. Although many might have felt the impulse, they resisted it. Jack Ohman did not. His term, however—December last year until December this year—embraced some unusual circumstances, which he wrote about in his farewell “speech” at his newspaper’s website, sacbee.com; excerpts—:
After being elected president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists last year, I faced the usual task: organize the convention and don’t screw up. [See report on the AAEC Convention on the other side of the $ubscribers Wall.] After all, my predecessors had managed to keep the group afloat, and I had no reason to think it wouldn’t be a typical year.
Then in January, cartoonists at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris were slaughtered.
Suddenly, I was faced with a completely new world. Instead of a nice, quiet convention in nice, quiet Columbus, Ohio, I had lots of concerns – like would any of us be murdered en masse. After the shootings at the ridiculous Pam Geller-instigated Muhammad cartoon show in Garland, Texas, I was even more concerned.
So instead of a hotel lobby and convention site filled with happy editorial cartoonists (not an oxymoron), there were lobbies filled with bomb squads, bomb-sniffing dogs, a SWAT team on a nearby roof, sheriff’s deputies, and uniformed and plain-clothed Columbus police officers.
I was the only president of a cartoonist group who required Secret Service protection, although the Secret Service was probably the only agency not represented.
The Department of Homeland Security, formerly a cartoon subject, became my wingman as I asked for occasional updates. They hadn’t picked up any terrorist chatter, so that was a relief. ...
Ohman went on to record the slow decline in the number of full-time staff editoonists, continuing—:
At one time, California had at least 10 full-time staff cartoonists: three in San Francisco, three in Los Angeles, one in Long Beach, one in Sacramento, one in San Diego, and several more scattered around at smaller papers. Now it’s me, Steve Breen in San Diego and David Horsey in Los Angeles. ... In Texas, there is one: Nick Anderson at the Houston Chronicle.
One. In all of Texas.
Political cartooning is a precious thing in our society. It stretches the tensile strength of the First Amendment, affects public policy and gives us all a break from depressing stuff, like Donald Trump’s pink fiberglass coiffure or Hillary Clinton’s need to plan her spontaneity.
As for me, I leave the presidency in November, and I am happy to go back to planning my presidential library. You’re invited to the grand opening.
Just step through the metal detector and show a photo I.D.
Reflecting on his own career, Ohman said during an interview with Michael Cavna:
It’s an excellent time to be me, except for the blood-pressure medication and the constant chore of keeping my hair at bay. I really feel like I am doing the best work of my career, and I enjoy each day. I started winning awards when I stopped thinking about winning awards. I started liking my work when I listened to my own voice, and not feeling so constrained by the old model. When you like your work, others will probably like it too.
ESTRADA’S SECOND BOOK OF COMIC BOOK PEOPLE IS NOW
Comic Book People 2, the second of Jackie Estrada’s photographic memoir of the Sandy Eggo Comic-Con, is now out in comic book shops, Amazon, and at exhibitapress.com (156 9x12-inch pages, b/w with color section; 2015 Exhibit A Press hardcover, $34.95). The first volume (which I reviewed in Opus 341) is filled with annotated photos taken at the Comic-Con in the 1970s and 1980s; this volume concentrates on the 1990s. I reviewed the second volume in Opus 342 if you want to revisit that. In the meantime, though, Estrada was interviewed about the book by Chris Arrant, newsarama.com editor, and I’m culling from it a few of Estarda’s remarks; to wit—:
“The first volume was very well received, which meant that I had to do the second one! The 1990s volume still runs the spectrum of folks in the industry (including editors, publishers, retailers along with creators), but there are a lot more photos of indy/alt cartoonists and self-publishers. I also cover such trends as the foundings of Image, Milestone, the CBLDF, and Friends of Lulu. Most of the people in this book are still around and working today.”
Asked to summarize her impression of the “tone” of the Comic-Con in the 1990s and any changes apparent, Estrada said:
“I think we saw more different types of conventions, more diversity of comics being produced, and a higher level of professionalism. You had the big shows like San Diego and Chicago, then lots of regional shows (like WonderCon and Heroes Con) that each developed their own character, and the alt/indy shows like APE and SPX. On top of that you had trade shows: Capital City, Diamond, ProCon. Many more companies were coming on the scene, and some of them were making big splashes with elaborate booths (Tundra and Tekno come to mind). In 1990 San Diego’s attendance was about 13,000; by 1999 it was something like 45,000. So the tent was definitely getting bigger. [For the last few years, Sandy Eggo has tallied over 130,000.—RCH]
“The early and mid-1990s were boom years because of the founding of Image, the expanded direct market, the speculator market, and the burgeoning self-publishing movement. So you saw lots of new faces come into the business and on the con floor, not only creative people who otherwise wouldn’t have ventured into the medium but lots of businesspeople who thought they could cash in on all the big bucks to be made in comics. ...
“No longer was press coverage devoted to ‘look how much that comic book of yours would be worth today if you’re mom hadn’t thrown it out!’ Now tv reporters would set up in front of that cool-looking display and do interviews. Other companies had to follow suit if they were to compete. And some of them competed by bringing in celebrities to do appearances at their booths, from William Shatner and Mark Hamill to Mickey Spillane and Mr. T. Meanwhile, Comic-Con created a Small Press Area and the Independent Publisher’s Pavilion (where Batton and I have exhibited for the last 20 years) in the mid-1990s to reflect that growing aspect of the industry. Also by the mid-1990s, Comic-Con had expanded from using just one end of the Convention Center to using the whole facility.
“And by the end of the 1990s we were seeing the rise in the popularity of manga and anime, which correlated with higher female attendance at shows, especially San Diego. I think that’s when I first heard the word ‘cosplay,’ in relation to the Sailor Moon gangs. And as many people are fond of pointing out, we started to see more Hollywood involvement, whether it was a Ghostbusters display or Francis Ford Coppola talking about his version of Dracula. I really think we started seeing the cross-pollination between comics and the tv/film/animation industries take off in that decade. Perhaps one of the big hints of things to come was a panel and signing that Joss Whedon did in 1998 with most of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—fans went into a Beatles-like frenzy!”
Asked about her favorite photos in the books, Estrada said: “The most heart-warming photos to me are the ones of my very dear friends who are no longer with us—Dave Stevens, Al Williamson, B. Kliban, Barb Rausch, to name a few. In the 1990s book, there is a 1991 photo of Sharon Sakai carrying then-baby Hannah on her back that gets me every time I look at it. I’m also fond of a photo of Chris Ware with the late Kim Thompson from 1998; Kim has a protective hand on Chris’s shoulder.”
Estrada’s two books of photographs with explanatory captions are much better than I’d hoped when I first heard of them. They’re not just photo albums. They are that, and the photos are very good; but they’re much more than that. They’re history on the hoof. Don’t pass ’em by.
ODDS & ADDENDA
Fiona Staples signed up for only the first three issues of the new Archie, producing absolutely exquisite work (especially the 2-page sequence in No.2 with Betty getting ready for her birthday party); Annie Wu is being billed as “guest artist” in No.4, and my bet is that she’s the new permanent artist (if they can’t convince Staples to continue).
■ Dynamite Entertainment’s first issue of James Bond 007 by Warren Ellis with Jason Masters drawing will hit the newsstands November 4, a day ahead of the new Bond movie. Entitled “VARGR,” the story has Bond returning to London after a mission of vengeance in Helsinki to assume the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent, but something evil is moving through the back streets of the city and sinister plans are being laid for Bond in Berlin. Ellis says his Bond is a much darker character, and the story is devoid of the kind of gadgets and gimmicks that the movies trade in. For Ellis, the definitive Bond is found in the mid- to late-period of Ian Fleming’s novels. “Those novels,” explains Cliff Biggers in Comic Shop News No.1474, “portray a more broken, disturbed character who seemed conflicted by the world in which he operated.” And “that,” said Ellis, “is pretty much where I’m going. That is by far the most interesting Bond, for me —the man whose job is killing him.”
■ The Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, will receive one of this year’s International Press Freedom Awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which recognizes the cartoonist for raising a moral and unsilenced voice through his cartoons, reported Michael Cavna at ComicRiffs. Zunar has been charged with sedition and, if convicted, could face 43 years in prison. (See Opus 343.) Zunar told Cavna that when a cartoonist faces a moral crisis, “you need to stand and fight. You need to carry the people’s voice through your cartoon.” On the other side of the $ubscribers Wall, we’ve posted a couple of Zunar’s cartoons.
■ A California auction house tried to sell an early drawing by Dr. Seuss. But the cartoon, a 1929 contribution to the humor magazine Judge, failed to attract bidders because the last of the scenarios depicted was blatantly racist. How racist? You can see on the other side of the $ubscribers Barricade where we’ve posted the incriminating evidence. The racist content should come as no surprise (except, perhaps, to doting parents who treasure the hours they spent reading Seuss books to their small children; they have to be grossly disillusioned by this news). In 1929, such racist visual slurs were common, and Seuss, like most Americans, participated in them. And during World War II, his editorial cartoons gave Japanese stereotypical features and behaviors. But Seuss’s cartoon behavior in those benighted times can’t escape contemporary censorship: the National Education Association’s Asian Pacific Islander caucus objected to the use of Dr. Seuss as a figurehead for the “Read Across America” campaign in 2003.
■ Steve Brodner, an award-winning satirical illustrator and commentator, is currently at work on a book about U.S. presidents, which inspired him, perhaps, to say (at washingonpost.com) this about this year’s Leading GOP Contender: “He may or may not seize the Republican presidential nomination next year, but Donald Trump is already making metaphors great again. Commentators can’t seem to help describing the billionaire with imagery almost as colorful as he is. While one candidate might be called divisive, Trump is a rattlesnake. And where another contender is aggressive, The Donald is Godzilla. Will Trump’s campaign keep soaring, like a personalized Boeing? Or will it eventually fall flat, like a pompadour on a humid day?”
■ PBS’s 4-hour American Experience “Walt Disney” was reasonably successful in portraying Disney as a driven, highly motivated innovating personality with few people skills and little compassion. He scored more game-changing successes than just about anyone. But the writers/producers of the show neglected certain aspects of history. Ub Iwerks, a Disney animator since the two worked together in Kansas City, invented the famous multi-plane camera, which the show brags about without mentioning Irwerks’ role. And a long segment on the astonishing success of Disney’s tv series “Davy Crockett” neglects to mention the name of the personable actor who created the role, Fess Parker.
■ The Missing Dennis has been found and is now on its way back to Monterey. That’s the headline. The story is that a statue of Dennis the Menace was commissioned by Dennis’ creator, Hank Ketcham, in 1988 and went on display in Monterey, California at the Dennis the Menace Playground, designed by Ketcham. Then during the night of October 25, 2003, the bronze statue (3½ feet high, 200 pounds) went missing. It remained missing until August 22 this year when it was found in a scrap metal yard in Orlando, Florida. Dennis was going to be melted with the rest of the scrap but the owner’s daughter noticed it and recognized Dennis. Then she searched the Web and found stories about the missing Monterey Dennis. Or was the one in the scrap heap the missing one? Three more bronze Dennises were cast from the same mold made by Wah Ming Chang, who directed in his will that the mold be destroyed after his death in 2003. The other three are at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, the Pebble Beach backyard of Ketcham, and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. But the latter is also missing: it disappeared in the late 1990s during a Disney renovation of the playground where it stood. So the one found in the scrap metal yard could be the Arnold Palmer Dennis, not the Monterey Dennis. The Monterey Playground at present has another Dennis statue, cast from a mold made from one of the other sculptures. So there are five Dennis statues altogether, and one of them is still missing. We have a picture of the recovered one on the other side of the $ubscribers Wall.
■ While we were still glowing with missing embers, a bunch of Denver comics fans discovered an antique rendering of Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead in which the characters look only vaguely like the famed Riverside personnel. The artwork (which appears below the photo of the Dennis statue referred to above) is by Sam Berman, a noted caricaturist in the 1940s and 1950s, who prepared 56 caricatures of radio actors and notable personalities for the 1947 NBC Parade of Stars. The Archie portraits were promoting “The Adventures of Archie Andrews,” and the pictures look like the actors in the program not the characters in the comic book.
THE O’REILLY FACTOID
Masochist that I am, I’ve taken lately to watching Bill O’Reilly’s sitcom for conservatives on Faux News, “The O’Reilly Factoid.” The show is self-proclaimed as the “highest rated cable news show in the country.” But is it? ... To Find Out—and to Learn about How Many Guards Guarded the Nation’s Editorial Cartoonists at Their Annual Convention and about New Yorker Cartoonist BEK and to View Stunning Pix of Pin-up Superheroine Comic Book Covers and Excerpts from Ferlinghetti’s Poems—and More, Lots More—Click
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